April 4, 2004 "Hey, hey, hit the ball away," chanted the girls softball team from St. Croix's Good Hope School as their teammate took her turn at bat in this weekend's Ruby Rutnik Memorial Softball Tournament at Warren Wells Ballfield in St. John.
When the weekend was over, St. Croix's Central High School went home with the championship after beating St. Thomas' Antilles School 15-12 in Sunday's final game.
"It was a very close game," Janet Rutnik said.
The event raises scholarship money for St. John girls and for a member of the winning team.
While the tournament, which ran Friday through Sunday, had been plagued by rain in recent years, the sun shone brightly as girls from Antilles School, Good Hope School, Central High School and an all-star team from St. Croix Educational Complex battled away.
"I love softball," explained Kaitlyn Bertolino, 15, who plays second base for Antilles School. Kaitlyn was sitting in the stands with teammates and supporters on Saturday as the Antilles team waited their turn on the field.
Chelsea Meyer, 15, said she came out to support her fellow students at Antilles. "And Ruby was my babysitter," she added.
The tournament is named in honor of Ruby Rutnik, an Antilles School softball star who died in a car crash in 1996 while attending American University in Washington, D.C. Her birthday is April 9.
Over on the other side of the stands, Central High School waited to play.
"This is the third time I've been here," pitcher Lasunda Stevens, 16, said. She noted that last year the Central team didn't get to play because the tournament was rained out after two games.
J'Lisea Derweer, a 13-year-old Good Hope student, said softball was very popular with St. Croix girls. "We always come here," she said.
While the players were intent on enjoying the softball game, the coaches that accompanied them saw the bigger picture.
"It's good exposure for the girls," Good Hope coach Frisco Davila said.
The Rev. Jeff Gargano, an Antilles coach, said the event gave the team a chance to play teams other than those in St. Thomas.
Friday night's first game saw Antilles win over the St. Croix All-Stars 8-3. Later, Central beat Good Hope 10-2. Saturday saw all four teams winning some and losing some as they vied to reach the championship game on Sunday.
After round-robin play concluded early Saturday afternoon, Good Hope, Antilles and Central were tied for first place, with two wins and one loss each. The seedings for the playoffs were then decided by totaling the number of runs for all the games. That left Central High in the top seed, followed by Antilles, Good Hope, and the St. Croix All-Stars in fourth.
In the first round of the single elimination playoffs, the St. Croix All-Stars beat Good Hope 7-5, only to succumb to Antilles in the second round 4-1. That meant that Sunday's championship game would be between top-seeded Central and Antilles. The game, which lasted two hours and 17 minutes, was a nail biter, with Central finally emerging victorious 15-12.
While Central High may have taken home the trophy, Love City Pan Dragons was also a winner. The group sold refreshments at the event, with the money going to fund the organization's activities.
"We need new steel pans," said Josephine Edwards, the group's treasurer.
Judging from the warm weather and the healthy crowds at this weekend's tournament, Edwards will probably to be able to purchase some new equipment.
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